The carrot cake is a perennial favourite of mine as well as my family. It’s one of the cakes that screams out to me when I visit a cafe because nothing spells comforting like a carrot cake.
During stressful periods or unhappy times, I turn to the carrot cake for some solace. For that reason alone, it is the first cake I wanted to perfect. I’ve went through many recipes like Jamie Oliver’s and Dorie Greenspan’s; I baked it for Christmas, for birthdays and any or every other occasion. It’s always a crowd pleaser even though sometimes, the result ( I feel) isn’t always as perfect as I would wish for.
I think I’ve finally found my perfect carrot cake recipe after much tweaking and experimentation. This carrot cake has all the flavours you want in a carrot cake – the warmness from the cinnamon and nutmeg, the hints of sweet and mellow orange zest. Above all, the texture is more than I can wish for – its crumb is tender, the cake is very fluffy and moist. It is so good that it should be eaten on its own!
However, to dress the cake up a little, you can make a cream cheese frosting. I know of people who would be so happy licking the frosting alone off a spoon. I would do that as well if I don’t have to worry about its calories.
For this particular cake, I decided to go with a more rustic-looking one. Think of it as a simple afternoon tea cake – unfussy, generous slap of frosting, looking every bit like it’s been baked from home with love.
Old-fashioned carrot cake
Makes a 8 by 8 inch square tin
This recipe produces a light, fluffy and very moist carrot cake. It is so good that it can be eaten on its own, sans the cream cheese frosting. I do that on days when I feel like I should eat more healthily.
The lime and basil cream cheese frosting is a refreshing twist to the old favourite. Lime and fresh basil go hand in hand, like good friends out on a walk on a summer’s day.
For the carrot cake
105g unsalted butter, slightly softened
125g brown sugar
155g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder (or more, depending on how much you like cinnamon. I usually go by taste of the batter)
dash of nutmeg powder (optional)
zest of 1 orange
115gml milk, full-cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
65g grated carrots
40g walnuts, chopped
1. Line your baking tin with baking parchment and grease the baking parchement with butter all round so that the cake can be easily removed after baking.
2. Start by creaming your butter and sugar until pale and fluffy using a paddle attachment if you are using your mixer.
2. Add in eggs, one at a time, and mixing until well-combined.
3. Add in milk and vanilla extract, alternating with the sifted dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking powder, salt) at a low speed, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not overmix at this stage.
4. Fold in grated carrots, orange zest, walnuts and raisins until well incorporated.
5. Transfer the cake batter into the greased tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 degrees celcius for about 45 minutes or until the cake top is golden brown and the cake springs back to touch. You can also check if the cake is done by inserting a knife into the center of the cake. The knife should come out clean.
Lime & basil cream cheese frosting
Makes enough to frosting for a 8 by 8 inch square cake (top and a layer in between two cake layers)
250g cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp greek yogurt ( I use a bit of this to make the frosting a little lighter)
150g icing sugar, sifted
lime juice to taste
zest of 1 lime
fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1. Place the cream cheese into a mixer bowl and beat at low speed, using a paddle attachment, until smooth (no lumps).
2. Add in the greek yogurt and mix until well-incorporated.
3. Slowly add in the sugar, lime juice, zest and beat until smooth and fluffy. Fold in the finely julienned fresh basil.
4. Spoon the frosting onto the center of the cake. Using a medium length palette knife , spread it onto the top of your carrot cake using a rocking motion. Do ensure that the cake has cooled down completely before you start to frost or the frosting will start melting.
*How about making cupcakes? Using the same recipe, you will need to adjust the baking time and temperature. Bake the cupcakes at 180 degrees celcius for about 18 – 20 minutes.
*The cake is best eaten on the day it is made. If you need to store them, here are some tips:
– The carrot cake without the frosting can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.
– Once the cream cheese frosting is on the cake, you will need to store the cake in the refrigerator. Do thaw the cake at room temperature before eating . The cakes in the fridge are best eaten within 1-2 days or they will become too dry. Store the cake in the freezer if you would like to keep them for a longer period.